Although I had ‘retired’ from Broadcasting in March 1999, my name was apparently bounced around as a likely choice to head up what was going to become a regular webcast crew. The interest in my involvement was that there were hopes that I would handle the live play-by-play duties and in effect, become the online Voice of the Posse.
To say I was mildly interested would be a huge understatement. In my 23+ years in Radio, which traced through six different radio stations from Kelowna to Penticton to Princeton, British Columbia starting in 1978, I had done virtually every task one could do in Radio – except one.
Sports play-by-play was the one thing I never did in any of my on-air shifts. Sure, there was every other possible chore ranging from news reporting, advertising sales, interviews, on-location remotes, adlibbing my way out of anything, on-air shifts during the morning, afternoon, evening and overnight to transmitter runs to reset equipment and whatever else was needed.
However, there was never a chance to get involved in the fast-paced commentary of play-by-play Radio sports. It, quite honestly, was not a huge interest of mine. I think I may have mentioned that play-by-play was foreign to me when the Posse started to court me, but I also found it to be an interesting opportunity. I actually looked at the potential of being the Posse Webcast Guy as the final goal remaining in my Broadcasting career. If you want to call it a Bucket List item, fine. I don’t have one of those so to me, play-by-play was going to complete my Broadcasting chapter.
I started attending more home games. I had been a season ticket holder for a couple years by this point so I started looking at the action on ice in a very different way. I started doing a play-by-play in my head to see what it took to keep it interesting. I found it difficult.
Then the season ended and there was no further discussion of the webcast program.
The KIJHL introduced the webcast network at the start of the 2008/09 season. The Princeton Posse jumped on board immediately and was one of a handful of teams that embraced the new technology. I was pulled into the fold and did my very first Princeton Posse webcast on Saturday, September 13, 2008. Princeton got beat by Fernie 7-3 that night. All I remember about it was that the webcast was being done from the stands and people kept getting in my view and that I had a tough time following anything. I had a ‘colour guy’ who operated the camera. I had a handheld mic and little else.
We were on the cutting edge of the technological world of streaming live ice hockey from our arena to homes and computers around the world, provided you knew how to connect and that your internet provider could keep you connected. I suggested the webcast booth be moved to a box that was located above the scorekeepers box. It was high and overtop centre ice. The camera could be mounted just outside the box and I needed a headset. I wanted both hands free. I also needed extra volunteers. The team filled all of my requests.
By the time the team hit its stride that season I had a camera person, a colour guy, someone watching the feed and sending out messages via social media and someone playing music between plays. We were also picking up a following online although technical glitches tended to slow us down frequently.
I had also figured out how to do the play-by-play. It hit me one day that all I had to do was describe what I was seeing. I didn’t have to be fancy. I just had to tell viewers what was going on. Eventually I was able to keep up with the play and added tons of local flavour keeping in mind that family members from both teams on ice were tuning in.
One season the webcasts were switched to a pay-per-view system and I feared it would kill viewership. I didn’t think our product was worth paying $6-$8 per game to watch. I doubted anyone would bother. However, we kept doing our best and by the end of our fourth and fifth seasons with the PPV webcasts we had the second-most viewed webcast in the league. All teams by this time were using the internet for this purpose and the PPV system provided a way of tracking traffic.
After five seasons of play-by-play I was getting tired. My life was changing and I wasn’t sure I could keep doing the games and keep the standard at the level it had been at that point. The new head coach of the team at the time virtually talked me into staying. My last season was not my favourite, but I knew in my head all through the season that it would be my last.
I started a freelance writing business out of my home in January 2014 to assist us in creating cash flow when our primary business, a weekly community newspaper, was suffering from a sagging economy and the switching of the industry to digital news delivery. It hit us hard and I knew I could not return to the webcast booth.
My very last Princeton Posse webcast was February 22, 2014. It was the end of an uninterrupted series of 181 webcasts in a row which included exhibition games during more than one season and play-off games in a couple of seasons. The Posse beat Grand Forks in that game with a score of 10-5. All I remember of that game was that I was finally free to focus on the changes going on in my life. My wife, Brenda, became a ‘hockey widow’ on weekends when there were home games as she wouldn’t see much of me.
I tried to get her interested by bringing her to the odd game but it didn’t spark any interest in her whatsoever. That was okay as “Hockey Night in Princeton,” as we called it, I’d have my deal to do and Brenda got a private ‘Girl’s Night’ at home where she would curl up with a pizza in front of the TV. It worked for us for six hockey seasons.
Two years passed.
In May 2016 Brenda and I decided to shut down our newspaper in an effort to stop the bleeding. The process of winding down the business started in July and we began the physical closure of our downtown storefront office in August. We were two days away from being out of the space which would have meant all services, including telephone, would have been disconnected.
The phone rang. It had been days since it had.
It was the Princeton Posse’s current Associate Coach Lance Vaillancourt. He wanted to discuss the possibility of me returning to the Webcast Booth – something I hadn’t even considered as I was still navigating the closure of the newspaper, helping Brenda with her ambitious venture into weekly vending of a sideline business of hers and planning my future as a freelance writer.
Lance wanted to talk to me face-to-face and knew far more about me than I knew about him. A few hours later he and Posse Head Coach and General Manager Geoff Goodman were at the front door of our mostly empty office.
Long story, short I started my seventh season as play-by-play online webcaster for the team with the regular season home opener Friday, September 9, 2016. The Posse lost to North Okanagan 4-3. It was Webcast #1 although in reality for me it was Webcast #182.
The Webcast Booth is different and back on the side of the arena where I did my very first one for the team back in 2008 – actually, it sits a few feet away from the precise location. It’s a luxury box compared to what I had been using. What made everything easy for me to return was the overall feel of game nights. Virtually all the same volunteers are still doing what they were doing when I had left the organization.
It was a nice fit and I felt as if I had not been gone for two seasons at all.
Although I had not even thought about resuming webcasts for the Princeton Posse I’m glad to be back. It’s also great to have the support of the coaches and team. Game nights are great nights to be in Princeton Arena and I’m grateful to be back in the middle of all the action.